Out of work for more than a year, Shanta Sturgis was one of the more than 700 people who came to Goodwill Job Connection on Peach Orchard Road for a job fair Thursday.
“So many people are looking, I wanted to be here first thing,” said Sturgis, who lined up two hours before the doors opened.
Sturgis said she has become a regular at job fairs across the area. She has five children ranging in age from 2 to 20.
“I’ve been everywhere, and I’m willing to do basically anything,” she said.
Susan Everitt, the director of communications for Goodwill, said the 15 companies at the fair were looking to fill more than 500 positions. In addition to several smaller companies, Bridgestone Americas had 200 positions to fill and SITEL had 100.
Across the nation, companies are adding to their payrolls. The U.S. private sector added 216,000 jobs last month, according to Wednesday’s ADP National Employment Report, topping economists’ expectations for a gain of 208,000. The ADP report showed small businesses driving the gains in February, with an increase of 108,000 jobs. Medium-sized companies added 88,000 jobs, and larger companies created 20,000 positions.
Allison Bellinger, a human resources assistant for Right at Home home care and assistance services, said the large crowd was an eye-opener for her.
“I’m really realizing how many people are out of work,” she said. “The line has been continuous, all day long.”
Georgia’s unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, higher than the national rate of 8.3 percent.
Bellinger said her company tries to hire 20 workers every month, but she sometimes has trouble finding qualified applicants.
“It’s been difficult getting the right people,” she said. “It seems like things are slowly getting better, though.”
Connie Lowery, a human resources manager for the Fort Gordon/Augusta Exchange stores, said she gave out more than 300 information sheets about the five positions her company is looking to fill.
“We ran out of fliers within the first hour and had to make more copies,” she said. “Everyone seems really eager to get a job.”
Nationally, slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. But the overall level stayed low enough to suggest the job market is strengthening.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications increased by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 362,000.
The four-week average remained at roughly 355,000. That’s essentially unchanged from last week’s level, which was the lowest in four years.
Applications have fallen 14 percent since October. When applications fall below 375,000, that generally signals hiring is strong enough to reduce the unemployment rate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.